Thursday, June 17, 2010

Quilt Tattoos

Many of you have probably seen that tattoos on some of the quilters at the shows with quilt tattoos on them. Most notorious is probably Karen McTavish and her feathers tattoos. While I find them pretty, I am not fond of needles, so my skin remains tattoo and quilt free. However, my quilts on the other hand, don't have to be!

I am a huge fan of Tsukineko Inks.

Here's a description from Tsukineko's website:

"Due to its blendability and versatility, this quick-drying craft ink has become a favorite among fabric artists. And because it's water-based and non-toxic, All-Purpose Ink is fun for artists of all ages. Use it on wood, paper, leather and other porous surfaces too. All-Purpose Ink must be heat set on fabric for permanence. Heat set between color applications to prevent bleeding. Or layer colors to achieve a blended "watercolor effect."

How do they work?

You simply dip the Fantastix into the inks, it wicks it up, then you begin to apply it to your fabric. There are two options available, the brush point and bullet point. The brush tip is great for getting into tiny corners and points, as well as covering large areas when you hold it at an angle. The bullet point brush, I love to use for blending.


If you are a beginner to these inks, to art quilting, or are just generally unsure of the process a good place to start is with Dover books! These books offer royalty free images (check the license agreement in the front of them to be sure of the level of use you are given for each book!) You can either just start with the size given, or have it blow up into a larger size at a copy center store.

After you have the image you want, in the size you want, it's time to get started!

Step One:

At this point we are going to trace the image we've chosen onto a background fabric. (*note* You do not have to use white, I'm simply using white for better display purposed. Feel free to experiment with different color background, as they will change the color of the inks!)

I generally use black markers to give the look of a tattoo or coloring book, or stained glass appearance. If you choose, you can use any method of marking the fabric you wish, keeping in mind you will be heat setting this when you're done.

Here are my favorite black markers that I use when tracing:

Let's get started!

First we need to lay the fabric down on a protected surface, to prevent the bleed through from ruining our work surface area.

Now we are ready to start using our inks!

It is easier to start with out lighter colors first and then build on them, as we can darken, but lightening isn't feasibly with this medium. (There is a white ink, but so far, I have not found it to work backwards from an already darkened surface well.)

If you want an ink to appear lighter, simply use an eye dropper to get just a bit of the ink and drop it into a disposable cup filled with a few tablespoons or so of water. (If you are going to be coloring a large area of fabric with the lightened ink, use more water and more drops of the ink.)

NOTE: If you are diluting the ink, be sure to not get the brush too close to the lines, as the extra water can increase the bleed amount coming out from the brush.

Once all of our sections are filled, we can begin to add any shading to them with darker colors.

If you are unsure of how a shading color will interact with a lighter color underneath, be sure to test if on some spare fabric before applying to your piece.

You would just continue applying colors until the image is filled in, dry, heat set and quilt it up!

Using Inks to Enhance Quilted Pieces:

NOTE: I do not recommend doing this process until you have experimented with the previous technique. There are things that can go wrong during this process: bleeding over the quilt lines into areas you don't want it in, and bleeding through to the back.

I have learned to have a very light touch during this process - though the bleed through is not as much a consideration for me, as I often use black backing - and my pieces are generally always wall pieces and not meant for competition.

Here are my quilted pieces before tattooing them:

Straight up coloring, you just simply color in the lines:

You can see in the bottom right picture, that because the pink was still wet, and my purple ink was diluted in water, there was some bleeding occurring.


Here you start with a light color:

Add shading with a bit darker colors:

color in the background:

I mentioned before the ink can bleed through to the back. The piece above with the yellow feather did this (the yellow was very diluted so it bleed through more, especially through the quilting needle holes.)

Here is an example of a piece I inked in after quilting to add more "oomph" as I wasn't happy with it:

I hope that you'll pick up some inks and give this a try! Any questions? Just ask us!

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